Pick by The Daily Norseman
With the seventeenth overall selection in the 2008 SB Nation NFL Mock Draft, the Minnesota Vikings have selected Clemson DE Phillip Merling. This selection was made by the community over at the Daily Norseman, and their fearless leader, Gonzo, is here to give his thoughts on the selection:
To this point in the off-season, the Vikings have actually positioned themselves quite well. They addressed their glaring need at wide receiver by signing Bernard Berrian away from the Chicago Bears, and addressed their need for an upgrade at safety by luring Madieu Williams away from Cincinnati. They've also made a few signings to address their depth and their special teams. The one place they've yet to truly address, however, is defensive end. The DE position took a big jump up the priority list with Kenechi Udeze being diagnosed with leukemia in early February, and it really wasn't a position of strength to start with. While the Vikings like the potential of players like Ray Edwards and Brian Robison, they need to generate something more from the outsides to complement the inside tandem of the Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object (or, as you might know them, Kevin and Pat Williams).
Enter Phillip Merling. Merling is remarkably similar to Udeze, the man he'll be called upon to replace. They both weigh in at around 280 pounds (though Merling is a couple of inches taller), they're both known for their energy on the field, and they're both very solid players against the run. Merling showed during his junior season with the Tigers that he could get into the backfield on a frequent basis, racking up 7 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. He's also very good in pursuit, as shown by his 78 total tackles in 2007. At the very least, he should be able to work very well into a rotation including Robison, Edwards, and Erasmus James (if James can stay healthy for five minutes).
There were a couple of other directions that the Vikings could have gone here, notably wide receiver or offensive tackle. Fortunately, those are two of the deeper positions in the draft. With the Vikings having addressed their biggest remaining need with the selection of Merling, they can focus on using their second-round pick and their two third-round picks to add players at those two positions. With the way the draft has fallen to this point, Phillip Merling appears to be the smartest pick that the Vikings could make.
Matt Miller, host of this site as well as owner of New Era Scouting, provides his analysis below:
There is much uncertainty surrounding the future of defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who may miss significant time with cancer. His career is understandably on hold for the time being. Rookie Brian Robison looked like a stud pass-rusher in limited time, but the team must address their run defense with this pick. Merling is an agile lineman who can play both end and tackle, giving All Pro's Kevin and Pat Williams much needed breaks. This pick is very smart, taking a top 5 available player and solidifying their defensive line. With the moves made in free agency in the secondary and at wide receiver, I love this pick.
:: Phillip Merling Scouting Report - New Era Scouting :: Matt Miller's Top Five Prospects Remaining - 1. RB Jonathan Stewart, 2. WR Limas Sweed, 3. LB Dan Connor, 4. CB Antoine Cason, 5. QB Brian Brohm
The weekend festivities will wrap up this evening with a pick incoming from those wily Texans in Houston. Ably represented by Battle Red Blog, the Houston Texans are now on the clock.